Thursday, February 16, 2006

BLOG WATCH Episode 2 Steven Pollard

Second in the series of Dobber's Blog Watch picks up on the site of former young Conservative turned influential Labour advisor turned journalist and blogger Steven Pollard (left). Here is his blog.

Pollard is paid by the Times Newspaper, The Daily Telegraph and other journals to present intellectual arguments promoting various corporate interests in society. He is also paid by Exxon Mobil amongst others via a role at the think tank Centre for the New Europe to promote pro-market options to government. Like Mark Leonard, Pollard is paid via think tanks to represent Corporations. He has two roles (1) to persuade Government to act in favour of minority corporations over majority public interest (2) to persuade public opinion to tolerate this imbalance.

Pollard's particular brief is to focus on the privatisation of Public Healthcare systems for the benefit of private corporate shareholders. He is paid in this capacity by drugs companies such as Big Pharma (see page 2 of document). Pollard writes in mainstream newspapers, attempting to manipulate intellectual opinion on this issue. Here are samples from 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005. Pollard has been described by the BBC as 'Britain's most prolific columnist'

Steven's blog however is a different animal. He takes on a vast swathe of subjects, occasionally blogging throughout the day. Unlike the concealed agenda of other online New Labour propagandists, Pollard's blog is refreshingly forthright, although professing to "come from the left" his views span the Neo-Liberal Consensus from Blairite to American Right. In this piece Pollard discusses with peers "over wine and canapés" their noble mission to "rid the world of tyranny and to give all people the liberty as we enjoy in the West. " A fervent supporter of the Iraq occupation, Pollard takes repeated issue with it's opponents. Although on this matter Pollard typically rails against the intellectual "Left" of the West, rather than challenge genuine opposition from the people of Iraq. Unsurprisingly, the critical voices of Iraqi spokesmen, even that of President Talabani are conspicuously ignored in these discussions, largely rendering Pollard's points flawed and disingenuous.

As a paid benefactor of Rupert Murdoch's News International Pollard uses a vast amount of space criticising and attacking the public-funded institution, the BBC. Pollard describes the corporation as a "a grotesque waste of public money" and repeatedly attempts to identify the corporation's "endemic Bias" in it's coverage of the Middle East. (Although serious studies present an entirely contradictory conclusion). Veteran Independent journalist Robert Fisk is another regular recipient of Pollards ire. Pollard claims Fisk indulges in "anti-American hyperbole", and at various points describes the journalist as an "odious lunatic" as "gruesome" with "repellent logic" who is "condoning murder". Pollard is unable to counter Fisks large body of journalistic work with genuine analysis and restricts himself to brief epithets.

There's a sense that Pollard is trying to ape the concerns and agenda of the hugely active American Right, his blog carries typical diligent support of the State of Israel. Pollard declares himself a British Zionist Crusader and has printed T-Shirts baring that slogan to give away to fellow travellers (One can presume that Pollard's understanding of the term Zionism excludes the Marxist foundations of the movement). Pollard peppers his articles with jargon he's learnt from the American Blogsphere, criticisms such as "Moonbat" and "Useful Idiot" (catchall terms to describe those who deviate from a Bush / Blair agenda) come direct from partisan sites like Little Green Footballs and Front page Magazine.

One can only conclude that Pollard is a man who doesn't take his own ideas seriously. His chief role is to represent his corporate clients by proxy and this is providing him with enough money to see "pretty much everything produced by the royal opera". Pollard jovially ticks all the right boxes and tub-thumps with gusto, but he often comes across as someone trying to prove his credentials to his masters, singing the slogans without really understanding what they mean or what real impact they have. The problematic realities of Iraqi life or a local UK communities relationship with it's public services are unlikely to be serious concerns to a man who boasts of missions to discover the finest restaurant in the world (concluding his search in California devouring "Ballotine of Mackerel").


If you’re a private Institution or Corporation and you want to influence UK foreign policy for the benefit of your shareholders, you need to pay the right people. These people can then get to work on a two pronged offensive. Firstly they must ensure that elected politicians are on board with your interests. Then they must set about manipulating public opinion to your way of thinking.

See, what happens is this…

Imagine you are say Nestle, BP International or Honda Motor Europe and you need UK foreign policy to serve your interests. The steps are as follows:

1) Contact the "Foreign Policy Centre" (FPC) and request to become a member. This membership scheme is open to senior members of Non-Governmental Organisations as well as the business and foreign policy community. Admittedly, the first class service provided is expensive and members of the FPC will pay large annual fees.

2) Having paid for membership to the FPC you are then able to participate in the "dialogue between policy makers and key stakeholders". The Centre runs a rich and varied events programme with representatives from think tanks, companies and government. You can interact with speakers who include Prime ministers, global corporate leaders, media executives and cultural entrepreneurs from around the world. Access to the FPC will give you access to such lumiaries as Tony Blair (patron) Jack Straw, Peter Mandelson and David Blunkett.

3) Once you have mingled with the various appropriate Governmental officials, made various contacts and hopefully secured their loyalty, the FPC can begin to manipulate the wider community on your behalf. The institute can draw on a number of in-house or freelance orators to spread your word.
You could, for instance be represented by founder of the FPC, Mark Leonard (see pic). Leonard will provides his services by broadly promoting your corporate interests in relevant journals and newspapers. His work is essentially intellectual PR. Leonard writes regularly for the Guardian, Prospect magazine and many more journals and newspapers. He will justify the need for corporate control of public services, and question why "public debate focuses on vilifying corporations rather than exploring how their resources can be harnessed". Leonard will act as a sympathetic mouthpiece for your corporation and summarise your grievances. This is all to your advantage.

4) If the wider world still seems resistant to your interests the FPC will help co-ordinate new media channels. For instance, if your interests are reliant on UK foreign policy in the Arabic world then you can simply have your own news and media provided for you. This outlet is designed to look like conventional news, but is in fact propaganda on your behalf. These stories are designed to be packaged pieces that can be slotted directly into mainstream daily news programmes . However it is important that the background of Governmental and corporate sponsorship behind this "news" remains hidden and your stories are not uncovered as propaganda. As Mark Leonard wrote in 2002 "If a message will engender distrust simply because it is coming from a foreign government then the government should hide that fact as much as possible.".